Buying clothing for newborns—or for older children—doesn't need to cost a fortune.
According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture, "Expenditures on Children by Families, 2008," middle-income married couples with two children spend between $11,610 and $13,480 annually to raise a child. Clothing for children from birth through age 17 accounts for 6 percent of that expenditure. Visit: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/CRC/crc2008.pdf
Here are five strategies for purchasing lovely infant clothing while spending significantly less:
Know when to shop garage sales and consignment shops. Many parents think that consignment shops are the cheapest way to purchase clothing for newborns. Although their prices may be lower than retail prices, baby clothes tend to be more expensive at consignment shops than at garage sales.
Denise and Alan Fields, authors of "Baby Bargains" (www.windsorpeak.com/babybargains/default.html), find that garage sales are great "but you'll have to hit them early because the good stuff goes quickly." They suggest checking Craig's List (www.craigslist.com) for "early listings of garage sales so that you can plan your attack."
Be on the lookout, they caution, for clothing elements that could be "dangerous," such as "drawstrings, easy-to-detach buttons or decorations, and cheap polyester fabrics. And always wash them first," they note.
They find that consignment shops are best when looking for an "expensive, one-time outfit," such as a fancy dress for a wedding. "Then we recommend that parents hit a consignment shop on the posh side of town. There you'll find high-end brands and fancy looks for significantly less," say the Fields.
Buy smart. For clothing for newborns and up to toddlers, consider buying blanket sleepers without feet rather than footed sleepers, so that they'll fit your children for a longer time. Instead of buying socks of different colors and styles, buy white ones that are all the same, so that if you lose a sock you'll always have a match. By buying multi-packs of Onesies, socks and other garments, rather than buying them singly, the per-item cost is considerably cheaper. To make Onesies last even longer, use garment extenders—panels that lengthen Onesies.
Time it right. At retail stores, shop end-of-season baby clothes sales. If you purchase full-price baby apparel, keep an eye on the price of the items after you buy them. Some stores will give credit for the difference between the new price and the price you paid if the item goes on sale within a week of the day of purchase.
Go online. When looking for baby apparel on eBay, consider "lots"—large groups of baby clothes that are all the same size. By purchasing infant clothing in a lot, you'll save on shipping costs. Also, check out www.SwapBabyGoods.com, a site that enables parents to register for free and to swap their gently used baby apparel with other parents.
Hit warehouse stores. Authors Denise and Alan Fields note that "You'll find great deals on brand new items at warehouse clubs," which often sell basics such as "footed sleepers for half the cost as at department stores."
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